After GAO Report, FMA Urges Congress to Provide Necessary Resources for IRS

As an organization that represents managers, supervisors, and executives in the federal government, including at the Internal Revenue Service, it was difficult, but necessary, to take a close look at the Government Accountability Office (GAO) report on the IRS released last week. GAO was asked to “review IRS’s enterprise-wide strategic workforce planning efforts,” and its finding of serious risks to IRS’s mission should not come as a surprise.

IRS staffing has declined each year since 2011, and from 2010 through 2017 the IRS workforce was cut by more than 24 percent. The IRS budget has been cut by $2.1 billion – or nearly 16 percent – in that time frame. Those cuts have deep impacts. GAO reports the number of individual returns audited in that period declined by almost 40 percent. In 2018 the IRS saw a 91 percent drop in investigations for non-filing businesses and a 77 percent drop for individuals, compared to 2010 numbers. This results in billions of dollars uncollected, and it is unsustainable. Former IRS Commissioner John Koskinen referred to the reductions in enforcement personnel as “a tax cut for tax cheats.”

The IRS estimates that every $1 invested in its budget produces $4 in revenue. So we appreciate the administration has proposed an increase in the IRS base budget from $11.2 billion to $11.5 billion, and adds another $362 million for enforcement. The IRS needs even more to begin to correct the severe workforce cuts and underfunding since 2010, and we urge Congress to boost funding in Fiscal Year 2020 appropriations. Because things may get worse before they get better.   

IRS officials note it takes 4 to 5 years to train a new hire to become an experienced senior or expert revenue officer. GAO notes this is significant, because the IRS reports almost 85 percent “of all successful fraud referrals came from revenue officers at the senior/expert skill level.” GAO concluded, “High attrition among IRS employees, particularly in complex enforcement occupations and lower-than-average employee satisfaction rate, puts IRS at continued risk of skills gaps. Additionally, GAO found the IRS faces steep challenges in its ability to hire new employees, and is not fully prepared to hire the 1,100 positions it estimates it will need to hire and train related to the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (PL 115-97) – last year’s tax reform.      

We note both the IRS and the Department of the Treasury agreed with GAO’s recommendations, and we look forward to working with IRS leadership to achieve the improvements GAO offered.

We are reminded of former Senator George Voinovich’s (R-OH) words at one of his last hearings:

“It just drives me crazy that more departments don’t really stand up and start raising you know what when we don’t give you resources you need to get the job done, particularly in management,” Voinovich said. “There seems to be a lack of appreciation in this body for management and the importance of having the right people, with the knowledge and skills at the right time, and having to give them the tools. I think you ought to stand up and fight and not get rolled. Make a big deal out of it. Get the president involved. If I’m going to get the job done I’ve got to have the tools to get that job done.”

The IRS needs to get the resources it needs to fulfill its mission. It is charged with accomplishing duties mandated by Congress. Congress and the administration must consider Mr. Voinovich’s words, and provide the resources the IRS needs to perform its work effectively and efficiently. And managers should similarly rise up and heed Mr. Voinovich’s prescient call. The Federal Managers Association will continue to do its part to voice its members’ concerns and demand the resources to allow them to best serve the American public. 

Posted in Hear it from FMA

Tags: Federal Managers Association, FMA

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